Courage for our calling

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah and the Call

In the beginning of this story filled with visions, incense, and fantastical creatures, the hero, young Isaiah, is quite scared. There is war and conflict all around him. Isaiah retreats to the only place where he can find comfort and a feeling of security—the Temple in the heart of Jerusalem.

When he steps upon that threshold for a time of worship, he finds himself in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred placeA really, super holy place.   Isaiah is surrounded by the meeting of heaven and earth.  Smoke from incense fills the sanctuary.  God’s very presence fills the room like a flowing, white robe. Mysterious six-winged creatures called seraphs begin chanting, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;  the whole earth is full of his glory.”  More smoke billows about the sanctuary.

Isaiah is even more scared. He was just going to find a little refuge, and now he’s being confronted with the very presence of God and God’s messengers. God’s presence doesn’t always feel peaceful and beautiful. No wonder he says, “Woe is me!”  He fears for his life.  In Jewish thought, most people don’t look upon God and live.  He cries.  He doesn’t feel prepared for such an encounter. He’s struggling to understand what all this means.

Then a seraph flies to him and places a coal on his lips.  Seraphs supposedly looked a little like snakes. A strange winged cobra figure holding a coal to your lips might inspire some fear.  Into this fear, God calls him, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

We don’t know how long Isaiah paused before responding.  God was inviting him into a new life, a new way of being.  That’s not easy. This takes courage. We don’t know if he moved rather quickly. We don’t know how many breaths he took.   Before he took a breath to say, “Here am I; send me!”

What courage!  Isaiah opened to God’s presence, and from that, he responded to God’s call on his life. His courage in not letting fear stop him from his calling meant that just maybe, instead of destruction—he might be used as a prophet by God to love and save his people. A true act of courage is always an act of love. (Paulo Coehlo)

Courage for our calling

How can we respond like Isaiah?  How can we open to God’s presence, even if we are scared? How can we have the courage to accept God’s call on us?   Courage in the calling is not the absence of fear—it is our ability to act in the presence of fear toward love. St. Thomas Aquinas of the 11thcentury, working off of ethics of Aristotle, said that courage names the ability to endure all for the sake of what is loved.  Courage helps us to persevere through fear and hardship for what we love. We take coals on our lips as we receive our calling, so that we may love others with God’s love.  A true act of courage is always an act of love.

Isaiah’s courageous response to his calling helped him to grow into his true self. As Frederick Buechner indicates, our deepest calling, our response to God’s question of “who will go for me”, is to be our true, authentic self. By living into our true self, we find joy and our path of service in the world. Vocation is really about growing into our true self in full participation with the One, which is God.  When we have the courage to say “yes” to being our true self so that we might love, we say with Isaiah (often after taking several deep breaths) “here am I, Lord.  Send me.”

Works used:

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC (HarperSanFrancisco: 1993), 119.

Richard Rohr, “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Who Am I” Center for Action and Contemplation, May 28, 2018.

Yoga Practice

Such an emphasis on courage requires a courageous practice.  We will do a series of sun salutations and standing poses to generate heat and fire to build our courage.  The peak pose will be hanumanasana, a pose that resembles courage.  This pose of a split invites us to stretch from our already to our not yet, from our past to our future, from our fear to our courage, and from our courage into our true vocation.


(taken from Yoga Journal,

Step 1

Kneel on the floor. Step your right foot forward about a foot in front of your left knee, and rotate your right thigh outwardly. Do this by lifting the inner sole away from the floor and resting the foot on the outer heel.

Step 2

Exhale and lean your torso forward, pressing your fingertips to the floor. Slowly slide your left knee back, straightening the knee and at the same time descending the right thigh toward the floor. Stop straightening the back knee just before you reach the limit of your stretch.

Now begin to push the right heel away from your torso. Because we started with a strong external rotation of the front leg, gradually turn the leg inward as it straightens to bring the kneecap toward the ceiling. As the front leg straightens, resume pressing the left knee back, and carefully descend the front of the left thigh and the back of the right leg (and the base of the pelvis) to the floor. Make sure the center of the right knee points directly up toward the ceiling.

Step 4

Also check to see that the back leg extends straight out of the hip (and isn’t angled out to the side), and that the center of the back kneecap is pressing directly on the floor. Keep the front leg active by extending through the heel and lifting the ball of the foot toward the ceiling. Bring the hands into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) or stretch the arms straight up toward the ceiling.

Step 5

Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out, press your hands to the floor, turn the front leg out slightly, and slowly return the front heel and the back knee to their starting positions. Then reverse the legs and repeat for the same length of time.

Holding My Head High

Scripture: Exodus 14: 19-31

Exodus 14: 29–“But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.”

I love that in the midst of a miracle, the Israelites walked.  After having endured slavery, plagues, an arduous journey through the wilderness, and the onslaught of Pharoah’s army after them, they moved with resiliency and dignity through the parted waters.  They didn’t scurry and run like a people afraid.  Nor did they stand still any longer, and gape at the wondrous wall of water.  They walked.

I imagine their gait to have purpose and strength.  The Israelites walked with confidence, for they now knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their God was with them.  They knew that they were beloved.  They knew their lives really did matter.  So they walked, with a steady gaze and their heads held high, spines steady and straight.

The resiliency of the Israelites speaks to us today, particularly to those who have endured much of late through the power of water.  People of Houston and of Florida, of Mexico and of Caribbean islands have moved with resiliency and strength.  With much of their former material life ruined, they have nonetheless found the grit to hold their heads high, and vow to start over. The survivors of hurricanes are walking with heads high, spines straight.

Those of us who haven’t been as affected have the opportunity to be God’s love to them.  Through our acts of generosity and kindness, we show that their lives matter to God and to us.  We walk with them.

If you would like to hold your head high by helping someone else to do the same, you may go to our church’s website:  www. .  There you will find ways to give financially, and also learn information on how to serve on a team.


The yoga class today will focus on the upper spine to help us to walk with strength and steadiness.  This practice will help us to hold our spine erect and our heads high, so that we might embody this resiliency in a world that needs it.

Virabhadrasana I (warrior 1)–Root the right foot into the earth, and the left foot ground down, especially with the outer edge of the foot.  From this strong and steady foundation rise up with the arms.  With the inhale bring the ribs back toward the spine.  Exhale and lift the crown of the head high. Lift the collarbones up, curl the shoulder blades onto the back, and rise up high.  Keep your head high!